As always in Israel, this has been an interesting week. Like a roller-coaster ride, we have ups and downs and it is anything but boring. So it has been this past week.
On December 6th, in an historic declaration, U.S. President, Donald Trump, recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. As stated, it was a recognition of reality. Also as expected, Israelis were delighted and “Palestinians” were infuriated. But, the declaration and recognition did not change anything on the ground, as far as the protection of holy sights and demographics in Jerusalem are concerned. Nor did they dictate, from a political point of view, the final status of Jerusalem, which was left open for resolution between the parties involved.
In Israel itself, Trump’s declaration was heartily received by most of the country’s leadership, while those with whom Israel is supposed to make peace immediately reacted with violent protests. A “Palestinian” with a suicide bomb belt stabbed a border guard during one of the protests. In Sweden, a synagogue was firebombed. And, along with the days of rage that were called for and carried out in various areas of the Green Line, there was also a marked increase in the number of rockets fired from Gaza into residential areas in Israel. Within a week following President Trump’s announcement, between a dozen and a half to two dozen rockets were fired into southern Israel. Half of the rockets were shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome defense, but the other half landed and caused damage, particularly in the Town of Sderot.
During this time, the head of the “Palestinian” Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, accused Israel of falsifying matters of faith and history. He also said that he would boycott Vice President Pence during the latter’s visit to Israel and said that the U.S. lost its role as an honest broker. Turkish President, Erdogan (pronounced “ardwan”), threatened to cut off diplomatic ties with Israel (over what was an American decision only). There were protests eastward across the Atlantic and westward across the Pacific.
It is clear that such reactions are not based on what President Trump said, because his statement clearly indicated “[we] are not taking a position on any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved…We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the “Palestinians”. With such a clear statement, which should have been an encouragement to the “Palestinians” that they have a say regarding their future, why would they, and the countries and organizations that support them, be upset and cause them to respond with rage and violence?
As noted in my last post, it is the existence of Israel in this region, surrounded by a sea of Arab nations, that is the real issue and not Jerusalem itself. For some, removing Israel from the Middle East would allow the anticipated Islamic messiah to establish his caliphate, imposing Shariya law on the entire region and, eventually, the entire world. For others, removing Israel, not just from the Middle East, but entirely, would be a more desired solution. Those who hate Israel and the Jewish people have existed from time immemorial and they continue today, cloaking themselves with the aura of humanitarian aid and social justice.
However one might look upon Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the statement does not make peace more difficult to attain. It could well be just the opposite. It frightens those who make every attempt to deny the historical connection that the Jewish people have with Jerusalem. It is a reality that they can’t accept, because it doesn’t fit in with their hatred of the Jewish people, couched in terms of anti-Israel and anti-Zionism. But, for anyone who has ever claimed to believe in the existence of God, who alone created the heavens and the earth, if they are totally honest with themselves, they will acknowledge that God is a Zionist! And, His promise to the Jewish people is this: “For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land.” (Ezekiel 36:24) Indeed, He has promised to Israel: “‘I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your [b]fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.'” (Jeremiah 29:14-15) Acknowledging the connection between the Jewish people and Israel poses as threat to the enemies of Israel as that it destroys their fundamental premise – in other words, one cannot be wrongful occupiers of what belongs to him. As the first Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, said in 1947: “No city in the world, not even Athens or Rome, ever played as great a role in the life of a nation for so long a time, as Jerusalem has done in the life of the Jewish people.”
This past week, in anticipation of a visit to Israel by U.S. Vice-President, Mike Pence, a White House official said “We cannot envision any situation under which the Western Wall would not be part of Israel”, also noting that the U.S. could not “imagine Israel [signing] a peace agreement that didn’t include the Western Wall.” Apparently, the United States has finally gotten around to admitting what everyone else already knows, but which many deny. Sir Winston Churchill, who was never without an appropriate word, stated to diplomat Evelyn Shuckburgh, in 1955, “You ought to let the Jews have Jerusalem; it was they who made it famous.” (Descent to Suez: Diaries 1951-1956) True history is known by all who choose to accept it as fact. This, however, is not the case with most of the nation states of the world today. The denial of truth and reality is the true impediment to peace, not the proclamation of them.
The leadership of the “Palestinian” Authority said earlier this week that the “P”s won’t meet with any U.S. representatives to discuss peace. The bottom line of such refusal is that the leadership really doesn’t want to end the hostilities. It is good for them. Continued hostilities opens doors in many countries to continue the “P” rhetoric that they are victims of wrongful occupiers, who are in violation of international law (which has never been proven) and are acting contrary to resolutions of the United Nations (which should never have been passed).
While the Arab world as a whole is still somewhat sympathetic to the cause of the “P”s, they have been relatively moderate in their responses, mostly due to the fact that they have their own, domestic issues to deal with and the “Palestinian” conflict with Israel is not high on their list of priorities.
The expression of outrage in the Administered Territories was less than what many had anticipated. So, in an effort to gain international condemnation of President’s Trump’s declaration, Turkey President Erdogan announced that Muslim nations would ask the United Nations Security Council to annul Trump’s decision. If that initiative is not successful there, those nations would “work within the UN General Assembly for the annulment of this unjust and lawless decision”, knowing all the while that resolutions of the General Assembly are not binding. And that’s what happened. First, the request of the Muslim nations was brought before the Security Council, where it was defeated when the U.S. envoy to the U.N., Nikki Haley, exercised a veto on behalf of the U.S., which is one of the five permanent members of the Security Council.
Then, on Thursday of this past week, the matter was brought before the U.N. General Assembly and it appeared at the outset that the U.S. and Israel were standing alone before the rest of the world community. Mrs. Haley had earlier made it clear to the world body that there would be “repercussions” for those who vote in favor of the proposed resolution, which is against the United States. This was followed by President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would cut foreign aid to countries backing the General Assembly vote denouncing the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This totally useless organization met and, after all the speeches were finished, it voted and affirmed, among other things, that “any decisions which purport to have altered the status of the Holy City are null and void and must be rescinded”. Again, it must be remembered that resolutions of the General Assembly are not binding. The full text of its decision can be seen here.
The importance of the vote is not that it passed, but by the number of votes cast “for” and “against”. The decision was 138 votes in favor of the resolution against 9 who opposed it. An additional 35 countries abstained from the vote and an additional 21 chose not to take part in it at all. All told, there were a total of 65 countries that refused to go along with the resolution – a clear sign that some things may be changing for the better, even if they change slowly. There have been worse decisions against Israel, so this can only be seen as an improvement. After the General Assembly concluded its session, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Israel completely rejects this preposterous resolution. Jerusalem is our capital — always was, always will be.” However, he added, “I do appreciate the fact that a growing number of countries refuse to participate in this theater of the absurd.” Indeed, that is what the U.N. has become. Its decisions will not change reality. President Trump made his declaration and all the opposition to if from nations of the world will not change that decision, nor the importance of it.
But, there is a different reality that emerges from the vote – a spiritual one. They think that in their rejection of President Trump’s declaration they are opposing him, as well as the leadership of Israel. In reality, however, they are rejecting the One who has proclaimed Jerusalem to be the place of His dwelling on earth and the One who will protect His people from the ways and wiles of their enemies. “Blessed be the LORD from Zion, Who dwells in Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 135:21); As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.” (Psalm 125:2) “On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves; and give Him no rest until He establishes And makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” (Isaiah 62:6-7)
The nations of the world considered the resolution that was presented to the General Assembly and they made a decision. What they fail to understand is that choices have consequences, some immediate and some that remain to be played out. Indeed, some of those consequences may be eternal. Ten spies chose not to enter Canaan, because they were afraid of what they considered to be “giants” in the land. Two spies believed God when He said to go in and take the land, which He gave to the children of Israel. The majority won out and the nation was the big loser. They wandered for 40 years in the desert, one year for every year that they spied out and the land and failed to take God at His Word. In that case, the majority was not only wrong, they were dead wrong, as an entire generation over the age of 20 died in the wilderness. We are responsible for the choices that we make.
The decision of the General Assembly in condemning Trump’s recognition of Israel as the capital of Israel was a bad choice. Unless these nations come to understand the error of their ways, their decision will have consequences for them, not only in time, but in eternity as well.
The handwriting is already on the wall. It says to the nations: “Here is what was written: mene, mene, tekel, parsin. And here is what these words mean. The word Mene means that God has limited the time of your rule. He has brought it to an end. The word Tekel means that you have been weighed on scales. And you haven’t measured up to God’s standard. The word Peres [parsin] means that your authority over your kingdom will be taken away from you.” (Daniel 5:25-28, New International Version)
The place of Jerusalem in God’s program is so significant that it is part and parcel of every Jewish marriage ceremony. As the bridegroom is about to break the glass in remembrance of the destruction of Jerusalem, he recites the following oath: “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, May my right hand forget her skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.” (Psalm 137:5-6)
May we say with Him, Who is the reason for this season: “Father, forgive them [the nations]; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
One more news item worthy of note that happened yesterday. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu finally ordered Israel’s envoy to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to submit an official withdrawal notice. Although the notice will be submitted immediately, in accordance with that un-organization, the actual withdrawal will go into effect only at the end of next year. The U.S, who announced withdrawal from UNESCO in October, is now to be joined by Israel.
According to Carmel Shama, Israel’s representative to that biased, anti-Israel organization, “UNESCO broke all records of hypocrisy, incitement and lies against Israel and the Jewish people…Israel and the Jewish nation…should be the first to donate to this organization and the last to leave. However, in the ‘Theater of the Absurd’ that is UNESCO, sane countries have nothing to find.” Expressing gratitude to the United States for its standing by Israel in the face of much international opposition, Shama added: “For many years, the US made sure that Israel doesn’t walk alone, despite facing an overwhelming majority and paying a price…The bottom line is that the US left UNESCO for Israel and it is our moral duty that it doesn’t do it alone.”
The withdrawal from UNESCO will have consequences for Israel, but the world will be the greater loser. It will not benefit from Israel’s academia, nor from scientific discoveries made here. It has, essentially, denied our cultural heritage, so the world may not think it is such a big deal … until they come to realize the extent of Israel’s contribution for the benefit of mankind in every sphere of our existence – not because of Israel’s wisdom, but because of God’s abundant grace.
Bless, be blessed and be a blessing. May the Holy One of Israel grant you good health, strength, wisdom, joy from deep down within you, and open doors for you for effective service as we look forward to the new year.